Cherry tomatoes provide a special challenge for gardeners who plan to preserve as much as the tomato harvest as possible. Great for snacking and throwing into salads, cherry tomatoes have too many seeds and proportionately too much skin to make great canned sauces. On the other hand, cherry tomatoes are super abundant.
It’s hard to resist planting more than one cherry tomato plant. They tend to ripen earlier than other larger, meatier varieties (which is especially important to Northern growers with a short growing season like myself). So, of course, I plant Sun Golds and Super Sweet 100s. I’m also partial to Golden Sweets, a yellow grape tomato. Even though I plant only one plant of each variety, I can get swamped by the harvest.
It’s a wonderful thing to have a bowl of cherry tomatoes on the kitchen counter where family members can pop one or two in their mouths as they walk by or stop for a chat. Inevitably though, a tomato with a cracked skin slips in, and the next thing I know, there are fruit flies hovering over the bowl and evidence of rotting tomatoes.
Before that can happen, I roast small batches of cherry tomatoes to make tomato confit (confit is French for preserves). I’d call it tomato jam, but making jam involves more work and this is super easy. Although these tomato preserves must be refrigerated (they don’t take well to canning or freezing for long-term storage), making confit does extend the tomatoes’ shelf life and is so delicious and versatile that it gets eaten as fast as it is made.
My recipe for cherry tomato confit is quick and simple: Preheat an oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange the cherry tomatoes whole in a single layer in an oiled baking dish — a pint of cherries fits in an 8-inch square baking dish; a quart fits in 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Tuck some herbs (basil is an obvious choice, but thyme and rosemary are also terrific) and sliced garlic in among the tomatoes. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tomatoes will break apart if pressed with a spoon. Don’t roast longer than that or you will lose some of the yummy juices to evaporation. Let the tomatoes cool in the baking dish, then scrape into a canning jar along with all the juices. If necessary (it may not be), cover the tomatoes with extra-virgin olive oil so they aren’t exposed to air. Store the confit in the refrigerator. I’m guessing the confit will keep for months, if you keep it topped off—but it has never lasted that long at my house. Bring to room temperature before serving.
There’s no point in making a preserve if it isn’t going to be eaten, but that’s not a problem with tomato confit. You can use it to make a quick and easy meal just by making a tomato bruschetta. Spread the confit on garlic toast and call it lunch. Just that, plain and simple. Or serve it along with sliced bread or toasts for a make-your-own appetizer at a party. Fancy it up with crumbled fresh goat cheese or fresh mozzarella.
You can use tomato confit as a filling for a tart that won’t become soggy as it sits. Spoon the tomato confit into a baked tart shell, top with cheese, and run the tart under a broiler just long enough to melt the cheese. By using the confit instead of fresh tomatoes, you keep your tart shell crisp. Tomato confit can also be used as a sauce for hot pasta or soft polenta along with grated Parmesan cheese. Another way to use it is to spoon it onto grilled chicken, fish, burgers, or steaks as an instant sauce.
I guarantee that once you have tomato confit on hand, you won’t be at a loss for serving it.
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